This BBC article summarises a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation that has been released shortly before the COP24 Climate Summit in Katowice. The report shows no slowing in the concentrations of CO2 (405 ppm in 2017), methane, NO2 in the atmosphere and also reveals new concerns about CH11 a gas that was banned due to its effects on the ozone layer as well as global warming. These GHGs (greenhouse gases) are now at levels not seen since 3 to 5 million years ago when earth temperatures were 2C degrees higher and sea levels 10-20 metres higher.
And herethe BBC reports (with video) on how China is building coal-powered electricity power stations all around the world. The article details and example in Serbia.
This articlelooks at the failure of politicians to take a systemic view that connects economic activity and consumer preferences with effects on the environment. The politicians seem to favour economic ‘progress’ despite unfavourable, now extremely serious and destructive effects on the support systems provided by the natural world for human society. Easter island is used as a previous example of the collapse of an economic system that destroyed its environmental support system. Pro-environment US President Jimmy Carter proved unable to beat Reagan who, like Trump, promised to “make America great again”. The author uses meat eating’s global effects on climate as a current issue that politicians are afraid to face.
“…democracy has never been very good at tackling the global issue of environmental degradation. Instead politicians often go to great lengths to avoid the topic. When they do engage, they do so begrudgingly, putting all their rigour into a division of responsibility that excuses themselves to the greatest extent.
On the whole, democracies are dominated by chronic short term decision making. And while they often act as safeguards to individual human liberties, democracy, and its preference for compromise, are often part of the problem when it comes to the environment – the biggest issue of them all.
Politicians avoid the reality that only immediate alterations to human behaviour can prevent this crisis. Put simply, the planet urgently needs more compassion for the environment and much less individual ego.”
Most concede that there is an urgent need to radically transform our food systems. But the proposed innovations for more sustainable food systems are drastically different. Which we choose will have long-lasting effects on human society and the planet.
Suggested innovations in food systems can be broadly understood as either seeking to conform with – or to transform – the status quo.”
After outlining the contrasts between fossil-fuel-drive, industrialised, financialised, corporate high-tech agriculture and regenerative localised agroecological farming, the authors ask:
“Do you want to live in a world in which artificial food is produced by intelligent robots and corporations that put profits before people? Or one where agroecological innovations ensure we can nourish ourselves and our communities in a fair, ecologically regenerative, and culturally rich way?”
NYT editorial on the imminent vote https://www.wired.com/story/a-carbon-tax-is-pretty-much-inevitable-even-if-voters-said-no/in Washington State to introduce a tax on carbon emissions. It could set in train similar moves elsewhere in a long overdue development to curb carbon emissions
NYT Editorialon US mid-term election result implications for climate policy.
Meanwhile, this blog shows that oil production has unexpectedly reached 100 million barrels per day, a figure thought to be impossible as conventional oil supplies decline. The continued growth in oil use and hence CO2 emission, has been because of fracking unconventional supplies. 10 billion barrels per day from fracking come from the USA whose president opts his country out of the Paris Climate Agreement.
This Guardian article deals with a new form of activism planned in an effort to get the UK government to take climate change seriously. Rowan Williams the former Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the high profile advocates of direct action that will take to the streets on 17 November 2018.
Here are three statements from participants:
“Once you face and feel the shock of what we are facing, if you are willing to face the grief and can process those feelings, there is tremendous energy and a will to do what it takes. So that is what we have been asking people, to be willing to look at the truth of our predicament and grieve.
And something is starting to change. There is a still a disconnect between how bad things are and the action that needs to happen. But that gap is narrowing. There are more significant people starting to break ranks, both breaking from their institutions and breaking from their individual lives.
For me it goes beyond the idea of protecting my life as a privileged individual, or even the idea of protecting my children’s future to a deeper need to have been a good ancestor to future generations, to know that I did my best when the big challenge came.”
“I have no formal background in environmental issues and am fairly senior in my organisation. But unlike some academics I have taken the time to look properly at the evidence and have come to the clear conclusion that we are facing an imminent and potentially catastrophic climate emergency.
It has led me to re-evaluate what I am doing and why I am doing it. I am a career academic but in the face of what is likely about to happen to us I have to reconsider my priorities. I have children and I feel incredibly conflicted continuing in a ‘business as usual’ national setting, getting up and going to work when just around the corner there is a future for my children that is not the kind of future they believe they are working towards. If I am honest, it really breaks my heart. I have to ask myself, can I continue to do with integrity what I am doing when I know what is about to happen?
I am therefore asking myself, am I prepared to protest?Am I prepared to go to jail? And these are questions I am hoping many more people start to engage with. There will not be an opportunity for a ‘lessons learned’ scenario if we don’t act or if we get this wrong – there will not be an opportunity to repent at leisure.
If you understand the science, and I would put myself in that category, then I think there is an obligation to act – we are entitled to rebel because our interests are not being met. My levels of optimism are not high and this may not work but we must have the courage to try.”
This is an emergency, an unprecedented emergency. It dwarfs any other emergency we’ve known, including even World War II. And we will be judged by our children by how we respond in this emergency. Not by what are, in comparison, just distractions: such as Brexit. To future generations I would say that we are trying. Those of us who are joining this rebellion, and the many who support us, are really trying. If we fail you, it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
“As mammals whose primary calling is to care for our kids, it is therefore logical that an outright existential threat to their future, and to that of their children, must be resisted and rebelled against, no matter what the pitifully inadequate laws of our land say.
But the Extinction Rebellion seems to me the most compelling cause of them all. Unless we manage to do the near impossible, then after a period of a few decades at most there won’t be any other causes to engage with. It really now is as stark and as dark as that.
If you too feel the call, then I think you now know what to do”.
This article by Roy Scranton (author of Learning to die in the Anthropocene: reflections on the end of a civilization. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2015) draws an analogy between the relief of suffering for dying individuals and palliative care for our species as the terminal phases of our current civilisation approaches. Here is a taster:
Like a gravely ill patient trying to remain alive, our whole world is struggling to find a silver bullet.
Our economic models are not working,
Our political structures are corrupted,
Our ability to respond and adapt to our rapidly decaying environment is wanting.
We worry about the many threats to our civilization but seem to be stubbornly confident that they will find the path to salvation.
Pundits of all stripes peddle their solutions, their prescriptions.
Economists invoke the invisible hand,
The devout pin their hopes on the divine and
Scientists assure us that – given enough funding –
They may all be deluding themselves, and us. Our proposed cures may provoke only more suffering …
In 2008, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that it would take US$30 billion in aid annually to eradicate hunger in the world. As of September of the following year, we had already injected over US$17 trillion into the private banking system in an effort to cure the financial crisis – enough to save the world from hunger for 600 years! 6 We can no longer say we cannot afford it.
This articlewas published in 2017 in the journal BioScience. It was endorsed by 15000 scientist signatories and contains the following extract:
Humanity is now being given a second notice, as illustrated by these alarming trends (figure 1). We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats (Crist et al. 2017). By failing to adequately to
limit population growth,
reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth,
reduce greenhouse gases,
incentivize renewable energy,
halt defaunation, and
constrain invasive alien species,
humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.
As most political leaders respond to pressure, scientists, media influencers, and lay citizens must insist that their governments take immediate action as a moral imperative to current and future generations of human and other life. With a groundswell of organized grassroots efforts, dogged opposition can be overcome and political leaders compelled to do the right thing. It is also time to re-examine and change our individual behaviors, including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources.
This articledescribes the first legal success – in the Netherlands – in bringing a government to account for failing to act to ameliorate the emissions of greenhouse gases that are leading to climate disruption and global warming. The legal success was based on human rights legislation, the case being presented as a breach of human rights by the failure to act on the non-binding commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. Thus this is a landmark decision. The article is written by an academic from the University of Bristol and published in The Conversation, a website for academic journalism
This articleon new research from the Oxford Martin Centre Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford suggests that by 2050 the limits of the earth’s capacity to provide sufficient food will be exceeded unless globally coordinated changes in food production, consumption and waste are implemented. The study is not simply centred on climate change effects of of agricultural activity, but also on the consequences of the spread of western-style diets combined with the expected additional growth of human population of well over a billion extra mouths to feed.
The global food system has a lot to answer for. It is a major driver of climate change, thanks to everything from deforestation to cows burping. Food production also transforms biodiverse landscapes into fields inhabited by a single crop or animal. It depletes valuable freshwater resources, and even pollutes ecosystems when fertilisers and manure washed into streams and rivers.
The planet can only take so much of this stress. Staying within its environmental limits will require a global shift towards healthy and more plant-based diets, halving food loss and waste, and improving farming practices and technologies. That’s what a team of international researchers and I found in a new study published in the journal Nature
Without concerted action, we estimated that the environmental pressure of the food system could increase by 50-90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the continued Westernisation of diets. At that point, those environmental pressures would exceed key planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity.
SUFFICIENTARIANISM – Sufficientarianism is a theory of distributive justice. Rather than being concerned with inequalities as such or with making the situation of the least well off as good as possible, sufficientarian justice aims at making sure that each of us has enough.
Johan Rockström, former Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and now at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Ottmar Edenhofer his co-Director in Potsdam make the case in this Guardian opinion piece for an immediate hike in carbon tax (on carbon emissions) world wide if there is to be any hope of limiting global warming and avoiding widespread catastrophe.
Their proposal (JUST ONE OF MANY SUCH SEEMINGLY WILDLY IMPROBABLE ECONOMIC CHANGES NEEDED TO ADDRESS THE HUGE PROBLEM GIVEN ‘FREE-MARKET’ BELIEFS) follows the issue of the latest UN IPCC Report featured in my last blog.
“New global policies such as carbon pricing are needed if we are to avoid an apocalyptic increase in temperature
The already existing and planned coal-fired plants would roughly emit 330 gigatonnes of CO2 over their economic lifetime, which always exceeds 15 years. They alone would exhaust almost the whole available carbon budget for the 1.5C scenario.
Investment decisions have to be reversed now, otherwise the world economy will be locked in to a carbon-intensive pathway. To avert this, the right policies must be put in place immediately.
The climate summit in Katowice, PolandInvestment decisions have to be reversed now, otherwise the world economy will be locked in to a carbon-intensive pathway. To avert this, the right policies must be put in place immediately., in December will conclude that the voluntary contributions of the governments are currently insufficient to put the world on a 2C, let alone 1.5C, trajectory. Policies to intensify efforts are necessary. All nations need to revise their mitigation targets to accommodate the more rapid emission reductions required to truly stay well below 2C.
New global policies are needed. One such policy would be a carbon price starting around €30 per tonne of CO2, which would very likely render investments in coal-fired plants unprofitable. Zero-carbon mobility, such as electric cars, could then become an attractive option as consumers would expect an increasing carbon price, and the internal combustion engine would gradually be phased out.
Carbon pricing would be a credible signal to investors that governments are willing to act now. Governments, policymakers and civil society should heed the warnings of the IPCC report and take action immediately.”
In South Korea and in Poland the upcoming IPCC events referred to in this article will take place before the end of 2018.
As the IPCC’s next comprehensive assessment of climate science will not be available until 2021, this year’s report will be vital in shaping policy.
The IPCC Report restricts itself to climate change but also suggests the economic benefits of creating ‘green’ jobs that contribute to a desirable form of economic growth. There is a danger that the now widespread focus on climate change leads to other threats to a sustainable future being overlooked or down-played, in particular the continuing increase in human passengers on Spaceship Earth being added at an estimated rate of 228000 per day – one billion in the next 14 years
The preliminary IPPC findings contained in the forthcoming report are summarised and commented upon here in this Guardian article. The central point is that 1.5C warming should now be the maximum target for restraining global warming, not 2C.
“Johan Rockström, a co-author of the recent Hothouse Earth report, said scientists never previously discussed 1.5C, which was initially seen as a political concession to small island states. But he said opinion had shifted in the past few years along with growing evidence of climate instability and the approach of tipping points that might push the world off a course that could be controlled by emissions reductions.
“Climate change is occurring earlier and more rapidly than expected. Even at the current level of 1C warming, it is painful,” he told the Guardian. “This report is really important. It has a scientific robustness that shows 1.5C is not just a political concession. There is a growing recognition that 2C is dangerous.”
“Time and carbon budgets are running out. By mid-century, a shift to the lower goal would require a supercharged roll-back of emissions sources that have built up over the past 250 years.
The IPCC maps out four pathways to achieve 1.5C, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.
Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 – compared with a 20% cut under the 2C pathway – and come down to zero by 2050, compared with 2075 for 2C. This would require carbon prices that are three to four times higher than for a 2C target. But the costs of doing nothing would be far higher.
“We have presented governments with pretty hard choices. We have pointed out the enormous benefits of keeping to 1.5C, and also the unprecedented shift in energy systems and transport that would be needed to achieve that,” said Jim Skea, a co-chair of the working group on mitigation. “We show it can be done within laws of physics and chemistry. Then the final tick box is political will. We cannot answer that. Only our audience can – and that is the governments that receive it.”
“even pro-Paris deal nations involved in fossil fuel extraction that runs against the spirit of their commitments. Britain is pushing ahead with gas fracking, Norway with oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down Hambach forest to dig for coal.
At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming.
The countdown to the worst of global warming seems to have accelerated. Seriously damaging impacts are no longer on a distant horizon later this century but within a timeframe that appears uncomfortably close.
By the same token, the report’s “pathways” for keeping a lid on temperatures all mean that hard decisions cannot be delayed:
a shift away from fossil fuels by mid-century
coal phased out far sooner than previously suggested
vast tracts of land given over to forests
It’s mind-bending stuff and some will say it’s hopelessly unrealistic, a climate scientists’ fantasy. So is any of it plausible? On the one hand, the global economy relies on carbon and key activities depend on it. On the other, wind turbines and solar panels have tumbled in price and more and more countries and states such as California are setting ambitious green targets.
Ultimately, politicians will face a difficult choice: persuade their voters that the revolutionary change outlined in the report is urgently needed or ignore it and say the scientists have got it wrong.